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November 7, 2013

There are jokes that can be made about emotional outbursts, depression, thoughts of suicide, dementia and loss of short term memory. Even more when they are tied to Pitt football.

But not when they are related to Tony Dorsett and his recent diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

The three former stars underwent brain scans and clinical evaluations during the past three months at UCLA, as did an unidentified ex-player whose test results are not yet available. Last year, UCLA tested five other former players and diagnosed all five as having signs of CTE, marking the first time doctors found signs of the crippling disease in living former players.

CTE is indicated by a buildup of tau, an abnormal protein that strangles brain cells in areas that control memory, emotions and other functions. Autopsies of more than 50 ex-NFL players, including Hall of Famer Mike Webster and perennial All-Pro Junior Seau, who committed suicide last year, found such tau concentrations.

Dorsett went for the tests because he knew there were some major problems.

The former Cowboys running back, now 59, said that when he took his Oct. 21 flight from Dallas to Los Angeles for testing, he repeatedly struggled to remember why he was aboard the plane and where he was going. Such episodes, he said, are commonplace when he travels.

Dorsett said he also gets lost when he drives his two youngest daughters, ages 15 and 10, to their soccer and volleyball games.

“I’ve got to take them to places that I’ve been going to for many, many, many years, and then I don’t know how to get there,” he said.

The 1976 Heisman Trophy winner and eighth all-time leading NFL rusher said he has trouble controlling his emotions and is prone to outbursts at his wife and daughters.

“It’s painful, man, for my daughters to say they’re scared of me.” After a long pause, he tearfully reiterated, “It’s painful.”

Dorsett said doctors have told him he is clinically depressed.

“I’ve thought about crazy stuff, sort of like, ‘Why do I need to continue going through this?'” he said. “I’m too smart of a person, I like to think, to take my life, but it’s crossed my mind.”

Dorsett doesn’t know how many concussions he’s suffered in his career. It’s more than just that, however. It’s the repeated shots that weren’t concussions as well. All those hits. The cumulative effect.

The hope is that there is some sort of treatment that can be developed now that they can diagnose CTE in living people. But the work is still so new, that it is likely to be years before anything gets beyond the experimental stage. All men like Dorsett can do is have hope.

“I’m trying to slow this down or cut it off,” Dorsett said. “I’m going to be 60 years old here next year, so I’m hoping that I’ve got another good 30 years or so.”

Here’s the video of the segment, if you feel like battling dust.





Webster wasn’t deranged while he was playing. It wasn’t until years later when he start showing signs of impairment. Fats is another case, of course, but I don’t recall anyone else on the squad acting abnormally back then

Comment by wbb 11.07.13 @ 7:41 pm

What don’t I get Steve?

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.07.13 @ 7:41 pm

Aaron Donald a first rounder?

link to cbssports.com

Comment by wbb 11.07.13 @ 7:42 pm

spirit, you don’t get that defenders are now ACTUALLY trying to avoid head hits.

Mygawd.

Comment by steve1 11.07.13 @ 7:46 pm

Who was the tight end that grew into an all pro tackle. Courson, how about Donny Shell. 23rd pick to the meanest hitter I ever saw. Webster ran the steps of 3 rivers for hours everyday during his career. There are obvious signs of steroid use but nobody new what they were back then. We were on it first, and Noll was the link. We went from nothing to the most dominant football team in history in less than 5 years. We were just like the East Germans. Do you remember us drafting all these small quick guards that all of a sudden had biceps ripping out of there short sleeved jerseys.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.07.13 @ 7:51 pm

Steve1, I understand that. Do you understand that you cannot play football without hitting you head violently frequently. Hitting your head frequently causes brain damage. Hitting your head frequently violently really screws you up. There is no way to remove that from football no matter how much you try.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.07.13 @ 7:55 pm

Even if you ACTUALLY try you still will bang you head playing football. That causes brain damage. There is no solution that removes head hitting. Your head hits players and the ground and much of it is not controlled hitting it is random.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.07.13 @ 7:59 pm

Wbb, Donald is really making a name for himself and it is great to see a local kid do so well. I heard Bill Hillgrove say he is one of the 3 best defensive lineman he has ever seen at Pitt. That is some strong praise.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.07.13 @ 8:11 pm

Watching Rangers hockey. Defender hits a Ranger in the head. Penalty. Rangers score during power play.

I advocate power plays for football as well.

Comment by steve1 11.07.13 @ 8:13 pm

Oy vey, Emel.

Comment by steve1 11.07.13 @ 8:14 pm

I was listening to the Fan today, Vinny had Don Criqui on and he said that Donald was going to be a first round pick.

OT…Pitt is a 12 seed in the Tournament according to Lunardi

link to espn.go.com

Prayers for Tony 🙁

Comment by Jackagain 11.07.13 @ 8:38 pm

@Jackagain, We draw the Shockers again. I guess it beats the NIT

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.07.13 @ 8:42 pm

Ironic we’re talking steroids with the old guy on the bike ad. Human Growth Hormone, I’m guessing.

The science of healthy aging, LMAO

Spirit, I’ll support you to a point. Webster and Courson admitted using steroids, not a stretch to think management knew about it, but none said they were forced to do it.

A couple years ago, one of the Steelers Doctors, was busted buying massive amounts of HGH, the Steelers let him go. He said it was for his elderly patients, a likely story, not. People will always look for an edge. Especially when big money is involved.

As guys get bigger, stronger, faster the game does get more dangerous. I am waiting for a head to come off with the helmet some day.

For a while I wondered why student body right or left doesn’t work anymore, you don’t see guys that can turn the corner, like Dorsett, OJ or Sayers.

I finally realized, it is because of guys like Ray Lewis, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu. They were too fast and strong to let backs run outside.

The game has been adapting for a long time. Head slaps, piling on, and clotheslines were outlawed years ago, and changes are made yearly for safety.

Training and conditioning constantly gets better.

CTE is another hurdle, changes will continue. It will be sometime before football goes the way of the gladiator.

Comment by gc 11.07.13 @ 8:52 pm

Love to see Donald with a great game on Saturday, get him a few more Heisman votes.

Comment by gc 11.07.13 @ 8:54 pm

I doubt that Donny Shell used steroids mostly O-linemen and some nuts like Alzado.

Shell made the best hit I ever saw, knocked Earl Campbell out of the game with a blow to the mid-section. Think it was a shoulder, might have been a helmet. Like to see it again though. Another Steeler that should have made the hall of fame.

Comment by gc 11.07.13 @ 8:59 pm

@Spirit…I doubt they’ll be 4 seed. At least Pitt has a chance to finally beat a higher seed. Would be nice if they play UConn 😉

Comment by Jackagain 11.07.13 @ 9:14 pm

Highlights of the game Donald had:

link to youtube.com

Comment by Jackagain 11.07.13 @ 9:15 pm

sos22, I get your point. I just would rather you say it without demeaning others. Also, I have to admit that I’m a hypocrite. I love the game of football, but I will not let me sons play until they’re old enough to understand the risks and decide for themselves. I don’t know what age that is yet, but it’s not in middle school.

Comment by panther94 11.07.13 @ 9:39 pm

Any violent sport or career will seriously phuck you up at some point. Let’s be real.

Comment by TX Panther 11.07.13 @ 9:43 pm

Btw, I’m not Irish. Meant to type “my sons”, not “me sons.”

Comment by panther94 11.07.13 @ 10:03 pm

OCS shot down: link to triblive.com

Comment by panther94 11.07.13 @ 11:32 pm

@@@@@@@@

Difficult to get fired up over the game tomorrow. Pitt
likely will lose while a national Tv audience watches.

Remember when Palko burned ND for 5 TDS? Man a long for
a Pitt win like that.

Comment by JR 11.08.13 @ 6:49 am

Some quick comments on that poorly written article

The current AD and Chancellor love Heinz because it was their idea to raze Pitt stadium in the first place. Our website discusses the pros, cons and benefits of an OCS. A new Chancellor in 2014 and new AD may have a different attitude and perspective. Moreover they would be able to see things objectively.

The article says that the proposed land site will destroy green space and remove biking trails. Yes there is some green space in a hilly terrain but there is also an urban ghetto in the section of the Hollow being described. The chance to revitalize this area and generate economic dollars for the community cannot be ignored or sacrificed for a few poorly constructed and minimally used trails. Moreover our concept realizes the importance of green space and it is an important feature of the exterior design including bike trails.

It will bring energy and bustle back. How could it not when the concept is a multi purpose facility with dorms, classrooms, business space, a train depot, an all purpose stadium shared by football, lacrosse , field hockey and if domed, a new college hockey team. A place where one can live, work and play and be used 365 days a year.

We’ve never said it would improve attendance but it could just help improve the game day atmosphere and generate school spirit. And how often is Heinz busy outside the weekends and football season?

The writer didn’t spend much time on our site researching the concept and quite frankly misrepresented many facts and made them into opinions. But there will always be people who have their own agendas, share a different perspective or are just mean.

Our goal is to gather the facts and develop a feasibility study to determine the viability of the concept. In addition, we are attempting to educate the public about the concept, gathering grassroots supporters and want people to draw their own conclusions based on the merits of the proposal. We understand the challenges and know it will take time and money.

We want to partner with the school, community and other civic organizations to build something Oakland can be proud but we realize timing is everything and this current administration is not receptive. So until the change in guard, we ‘ll keep plugging away and won’t be discouraged or silenced despite any naysayers.

Please do visit the site and share your opinion or lend your support. At the end of the day, we’re still Pitt brothers who love our alma mater, favorite college team and community of Oakland regardless of what you think.

Hail to Pitt
Mike Andra
Class of 1992

Comment by TX Panther 11.08.13 @ 7:06 am

Today’s football is not at all sissified. Players are bigger, faster and more athletic. That said, Tony would still win a Heisman if he played on ant 21st century Pitt team.

Comment by MariettaMike 11.08.13 @ 7:34 am

Jackagain, thanks, even more fun to watch all at one time.

Comment by gc 11.08.13 @ 7:46 am

@TX Panther..the fact that you call Panther Hollow an urban ghetto makes me wonder how much time you actually ever been in the Hollow or know anything about it?
I know people who were born there and still have family that live there. Sure it’s not a rich (money) area but it’s not neighborhood that needs revitalized. In fact of any neighborhood in Oakland; the Hollow would be one of the last ones that should be touched.

link to wqed.org

Also you write ..how often is Heinz busy outside the weekends and football season? (I am assuming you don’t live in Pittsburgh now with the Texas name that you use)..with the hotels, bars, Stage AE, Casino, Science Center, river front with bike and kayaks rentals..more nights than not that area is busy more than not these days.

It’s your time so you can do what you want with it but seems if you take the effort you are using to try to have a new stadium in Oakland and put it toward supporting existing Pitt teams you would be helping Pitt a lot more than you are now.

Comment by milobloom 11.08.13 @ 8:19 am

@TXPAnther..if you really want people to know the facts post this link on your website and then ask if smart move by Pitt to try to destroy this neighborhood for a new stadium.

link to wqed.org

Comment by milobloom 11.08.13 @ 8:25 am

Great article explaining Pitt’s BB scheduling.
I understand this totally but still would like to see WVU on the schedule..As a season ticket holder I would pay a little more per game and take one less home game every other year (Dixon says they have to have 18 home games) if meant they could set up a home and home against a quality team.

link to post-gazette.com

Comment by milobloom 11.08.13 @ 8:30 am

@milobloom

The concept put forth by TX_panther and myself, is being reviewed and discussed. One of the reviewers and supporters (with alternate designs and concepts) is a community leader and resident of Panther Hollow – and resides in the proposed area. There are two parts of Panther Hollow – Upper and Lower. Upper is not a pristine green space (where our concept is located). Lower is (PH Lake and southwest towards 2nd Ave. – not in the concept) is what you are pushing as being the entire area. Maybe you should spend some time looking around at the foot of Joncaire St. Just sayin…

Comment by CompLit 11.08.13 @ 8:42 am

Wbb – you need to read more carefully. I did not write that TD played with Fralic nor did I write that steroids were related to CTE. I said they were related to former athletes and their health issues. It is a long list. Heart issues, liver damage, psychological issues, etc. You can look them up and you can easily find the athletes that died young and admitted using steroids. Sadly, PEDs are still widely used today by some of the most popular athletes. So I would not call the era of steroid use the era of the tough guy.

I am not saying every player was a user. That is not true.

Comment by notrocketscience 11.08.13 @ 9:05 am

then why did you even imply that steroids was involved? …. this blog is about CTE

Comment by wbb 11.08.13 @ 10:47 am

I was explaining why that era was not the tough man era as spirit suggested.

Comment by notrocketscience 11.08.13 @ 11:05 am

@@@@@@

You guys need to forget the idea of an
on campus arena not going to happen.
Rather Pitt should win more games and
hire better coaches. Winning games
cures all the chatter regarding a new
facility.

Great article on BB scheduling and issues
in the Trib.

Comment by JR 11.08.13 @ 11:05 am

I never said “all” the Steelers of the 70’s were on steroids nor did I say Noll made them take them. What I did say is Noll was the link when the Steelers gained an advantage by being out front of other franchises injecting anabolic steroids. It might not be a popular to think that our beloved 70’s teams were juiced, but the evidence is in the performance. Those teams were so much better, stronger, aggressive, and intimidating than any teams I ever saw. Remember hearing about Bradshaw having impotence problems with Jo Jo? Duh? Isn’t that a side effect of injecting anabolic steroids. Anybody ever notice Bradshaw and Webster both having premature hair loss? Duh? Our offensive line wore shortsleeve shirts in the winter to show off amazing biceps. They were juiced. Now it is commonplace to have arms that look like that but then we were ahead of our time. The real proof is for 40 years we didn’t even make the playoffs and in 4 years we became the most physically dominant team in the history of the game. I know it is more fun to think we were just that good because of some Pittsburgh mystique, the truth is we knew how to juice up before the other guys figured it out. Today juicing is common place. Even high school kids do it. Did it seem odd that as a 23rd round draft pick Donny Shell all of a sudden instantly became one of the meanest, hardest hitting players to ever play. Must have been coaching. When someone has a catastrophic injury aren’t steroids often prescribed to aid healing. Didn’t they tell Rocky Blier he would never play football again. I remember him playing way over his head with regularity. Duh? Now that I think of it doesn’t his hairline look a lot like Webster’s. Duh? Who was the tight end that grew into an all pro offensive tackle? I can’t remember his name, but when has that ever happened before or after?

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.08.13 @ 11:16 am

Complit & TX Panther – the author of that article didn’t have to be as flippant as he was but he did provide a link so more people will put their eyes on your concept which will at least get more recognition of the issue.

You know I disagree with you on almost every point but I applaud what you are doing in the sense that you are not just bitching about not having an on-campus stadium but are actually putting your time, energy and I’m sure, some money into it.

I believe that there are three major populations who factor into this the most. The PITT alumni who really don’t care on way or another; the citizens of Pittsburgh who are sick of PITT’s land grabbing and don’t want Oakland to be thought of as only PITT’s campus – although that is almost inevitable to happen at this point since PITT and UPMC are buying up all the old buildings for reuse.

A salient point is that PGH citizens are not going to give up a foot of parkland or anything else that contributes to the quality of life and PGH’s great national reputation for a singular and PITT-centric project.

The third is the PITT Administrations themselves. Not just the current one but the past and future ones also. TX Panther and I went around on this subject a few articles and five days ago:

(link to pittblather.com)

… but it is and has been evident that even the PITT football program ranks lower in the University’s overall mission areas then football fans want it to so it follows that the decision to move the games and tear down PITT stadium was going to happen sooner or later. Nothing I have read or heard is changed in that arena. You could tell by the tone of the interviews in the article that skepticism and cynicism are the popular sentiments.

I do believe that if there were “suitable acreage”, meaning no displacement of existing non-PITT owned entities, available and the needed infrastructure (as important as the stadium itself really) could be built AT NO COST TO THE TAXPAYERS then almost everyone would love to see the Panther football team play on-campus. But that really isn’t the case and PITT is never going to outlay the cost to make that happen, at least in my opinion.

All that said, and this may be construed as damning by faint praise, it IS just other’s opinions that are negative about this stadium happening, and you guys are doing not just the right thing but also a good thing in trying to get this issue into actual and productive discussions. Keep it up and thanks.

Comment by Reed 11.09.13 @ 8:24 am

Regarding the changes in the game of football; ever since the first snap of the first football match the game has been evolving. That is going to keep happening whether the fans want it to or not.

I think that it the ‘hue and cry’ for the “old way” is a bit misplaced. People bitched when helmets were introduced; people bitched when the forward pass was invented; people bitched when the five yard rule for DB/WR contact was put in place; people bitched when the Overtime Periods were changed. The game changes as things progress.

Yet we all still love football. It is more popular now than it ever has been by far and it is just as exciting and more well played now than in the past. That is a fact.

Changing the rules for the benefit of the player’s health and well being isn’t going to be the end of football; as stated above and in the PBS piece, NOT doing so will be the end of it.

Put it this way. If the NFL and Colleges, High Schools, etc. don’t change the safety rules sooner or later the injuries, deaths and lawsuits will become so overwhelming that Congress will step in and create legislation to address it. That will happen as sure as the sun rises in the east.

Do you want OSHA being involved in the way football is played ? I sure don’t either. Dr. Tom’s astute reference to the other big money issues is spot on and the NFL knows it. There is no longer any reasonable way to deny that the increase in the speed and power of the players isn’t harmful as football has been played.

The NFL pretty much admitted so with the huge settlement they just awarded the older players who are suffering from CTE and with the millions they are pumping into teaching safer football you younger players. It is a huge investment in the future and one that is necessary to keep the sport, thus the business, alive.

Things change and almost always for the better as long as the changes are well thought out and implemented. This will be the case with football also. The vast majority of fans and administrators want to see great athletic skills being used to create competitive teams and exciting games.

That also means people want less injuries to the players, everyone wants the star players to stay healthy so they can see them in person, and more great plays on the field. A few fans want to see those big knockout hits but hits don’t have to be helmet to helmet for the crowd to roar. A solid hard hitting tackle with the shoulders is just as satisfying to me at least.

Change is the way of the world and football isn’t excluded.

Comment by Reed 11.09.13 @ 9:05 am

All the areas around pitt have turned into ghettos except shadyside and squirrel hill. I lived there long enough to know that. Panther Hollow even beaing called a town is news to me. That area, and I mean no harm is nothing to write home about. Its college housing hood with a few older Italians.

Comment by Upittbaseball 11.09.13 @ 6:04 pm

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